It’s as though President Trump pointed to the family dog — the one you’ve known since it was a pup — and said no, that’s actually a wolf, and it’s to blame for killing all your chickens.
President Trump wants Americans to believe that the traditional, mainstream news media that’s been around since this nation was first formed are actually wolves they’ve let into their living rooms. That, of course, is simply not true.
Today, the Missoulian is joining with more than 70 other news organizations, large and small, from around the country in saying so. We are taking the unprecedented step of raising our collective voices to form a united front against the president’s persistent, dangerous claim that journalists and the news media are enemies of the American people. We do this in recognition of our responsibility to shine the light of truth on every lie, no matter its origin or its target. It’s not only our job, it’s our most basic duty to you, our readers.
The truth is, we are not the enemies. We are the watchdogs. We are the ones pacing the fence, sounding the alarm at approaching dangers and yes, admittedly, chasing the occasional squirrel.
We fully understand that sometimes, some of our readers might not like the way a particular issue is covered, or the wording of a headline or the placement of a story. Sometimes, we bark at false alarms. Sometimes, we make mistakes.
And when that happens, we count on hearing from our readers so we can immediately correct any mistakes and do better in the future. Our deep commitment to the truth — to journalism — should be evident in each and every news story we publish. We at the Missoulian believe our work speaks for itself, and that our discerning readers are capable of determining the value of that work for themselves.
News organizations expect to be called out when we get it wrong. What we don’t deserve is to be threatened and insulted for doing our jobs. It is not just wrong but dangerous to dismiss all critical or unfavorable coverage as “fake news,” to disparage journalists with personal attacks and to label respectable news organizations as “enemies.”
Yet only about a month after taking office, President Trump was tweeting “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!” He deleted that comment and posted a similar one minutes later: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
He’s kept up these attacks over the course of his presidency, just this month pointing to the journalists covering a political rally in Pennsylvania and telling the crowd, “They don’t report it. They only make up stories.”
President Trump is unlikely to let up on this tactic. This is a president who, fact checkers have found, has told thousands of lies during his time in office. He does not like his dishonesty challenged nor his falsehoods countered with fact, and so he has continued to foment mistrust and aggression among his supporters toward the news media.
And that, ultimately, is why the Missoulian is compelled to join our colleagues today in standing against this assault against our profession, a profession that upholds the enduring ideals enshrined in the U.S. Constitution that provide the highest level of protection for free speech, and in the Montana Constitution that upholds in the strongest possible terms the people’s right to know. Not only the president and his supporters, but all Americans must understand that those who have dedicated their careers to journalism are not the enemy.
President Trump doesn’t like the media barking at him and his administration. No president ever has. But President Trump will probably never read this editorial.
Our message isn’t for him. It’s for you.
If you are reading this, it means your family still has a watchdog looking out for you. You have a community newspaper, with a team of dedicated journalists depending on your continued support. We live in the same community as you. We share the same home, the same future, the same fate.
It’s up to you now whether to heed our words, or mistake it for the howling of wolves outside the gate.